Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

#1 Lithium Ore Company Snapped Up for $704 Million

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 04:47 PM PDT

Three years after it was forced to pull an Australian stock market float due to a lack of interest from local investors, the Australian-based Talison Lithium (TLH:TSX) – the world's largest producer of lithium ore – has been snapped up in a deal that values it at more than twice the price.

Talison, which has been producing lithium at its Greenbushes mine in Western Australia for more than 25 years, and accounts for one-third of the global market in lithium ore, has agreed to a buyout by US-based materials group Rockwood Holdings for $C724 million ($704 million).

Lithium is the key ingredient used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries – one of the favoured technologies in the so-called "secondary" or "rechargeable" battery market. The batteries are used in mobile phones, laptops, tablets and the like, but are also expected to gain a major share of the electric vehicle market, and play a key role in the development of solar energy storage and in grid stabilisation.

The purchase comes just after Talison doubled production at its main mine in anticipation of a boom in demand of lithium-ion batteries, and secured a 15 per cent increase in prices – taking its price increases for calendar 2012 to date to 25 per cent.

"Talison was, and remains of the view that lithium will be a major part of the world's new energy future, not just for mobile electronics such as iPads, but electric vehicles, grid stabilisation batteries, and solar storage," chairman Peter Robinson said at the opening of the expanded operations earlier this month.

According to a recent presentation by Talison, demand for lithium-ion batteries has been growing by more than 20 per cent a year since 2000, and this is expected to surge from around 2015, as the rollout of electric vehicles takes off, and as lithium-ion batteries are deployed in large format basis in electricity grids and for storing solar energy.

And then there is the boom in smart phones and tablets. This graph below indicates anticipated demand over the next decade.

lithium ore company 

Talison emerged from the wreckage of the Sons of Gwalia collapse and was to be floated on the ASX in 2009. But the float was pulled due to a lack of local interest, and it was instead listed solely on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2010. The Rockwood bid values its shares at more than 50 per cent higher than its previous trading price.

About one-quarter of lithium is extracted from ore-based reserves such as those operated by Talison and another Australian operator, Galaxy Resources, while the rest come from brine-based resources located mostly in South America, where Australian companies such as Orocobre are developing projects. Talison bought its own South American developer, Salares Lithium, to gain exposure to lithium brine projects in Chile.

The lithium ore producers were seen as much higher cost, but the anticipated demand and price rises are making them more attractive. According to Bloomberg, Rockwood is paying more than 33 times Talison's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, more than double the mark-up of non-ferrous-metal company takeovers in the past two years.

Resource Capital, a private equity firm specialising in the mining sector, which bought Greenbushes for a reported $200 million in 2007 from the failed Gwalia group, retained a 37 per cent stake in Talison after the 2010 float and will pocket a handy profit from the sale.

This post was originally published on REnew Economy.

1H 2012 US Solar PV Installations Grow 120%; US Poised to be World’s 3rd-Largest Market

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 12:33 PM PDT

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in the Americas more than doubled in the first half of 2012 (1H 2012) and will reach nearly 4.3 GW for the year. Solar PV installations rose more than 120% in the Americas in the first six months of 2012, according to IMS Research’s latest quarterly report, to reach 1.7 GW. That compares to 750 MW in the 1H 2011.

Looking at the global picture, the German and Americas markets led growth in solar PV installations through June, with global installations exceeding 13 GW for the first time ever. IMS forecasts 3 GW of new solar PV capacity coming on-line for the full year, according to IMS’ "Q3 PV Demand Report."

"Despite the lackluster financial performance of the industry's suppliers, underlying demand was robust in the first six months of this year, with first half installations 35 percent up on 2011," commented IMS Research PV Research Director Ash Sharma. "The Americas market, led by the USA was unseasonably strong in the first half and did not show any significant slowdown resulting from the anti-dumping duties."



US Solar PV Market to be World’s 3rd-Largest

The US solar PV market will contribute most to growth globally in 2012, making the US the third-largest solar PV market in the world, according to IMS. The US accounted for 40% of new solar PV capacity growth in 1H 2012. The European market, in contrast, is forecast to contract nearly 3 GW for the year despite strong first-half performance in Germany.

1H 2012′s strong growth in US solar PV installations puts paid to the contention that the imposition of anti-dumping tariffs and countervailing duties on imports of crystalline solar PV cells and modules from China would stall growth in US solar PV demand, according to the Coalition for Solar Manufacturing (CASM), which filed the WTO petitions against China with US international trade authorities.

"The new report by IMS Research effectively debunks two of the arguments made by Chinese solar manufacturers and their allies regarding the potential impact of tariffs on the U.S. solar market. First, preliminary tariffs did not slow growth of the U.S. solar market in the first half of 2012. Second, they have not had hurt downstream employment," stated Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., the Oregon-based subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, which leads CASM’s WTO trade litigation effort.

"The IMS study notes that demand for solar in the U.S. market grew 120 percent through the end of June, compared with the same period in 2011, and did 'not show any significant slowdown resulting from the anti-dumping duties.'

"This statement undercuts claims that dumped Chinese panels helped ignite a boom in the U.S. solar market. The fact that demand increased 120 percent – a significantly higher level than in past years, despite significantly reduced Chinese imports over the past three months – shows that there is significant demand for solar, even without dumped and subsidized Chinese products.

"At the same time, the 35 percent increase in installations of solar panels cited in the IMS study shows there has been no negative impact on solar employment in the United States," Brinser continued. "This result undermines the opposition's prediction of tens of thousands of lost jobs if tariffs were imposed to counter the impact of illegally dumped and subsidized Chinese panels."

Moreover, Brinser added, these early indications show that the penalties being preliminarily imposed on Chinese imports are having the desired effect.

"Based on what we are seeing in the marketplace, the U.S. solar market is robust, despite challenges for producers. However, as the Associated Press pointed out, the challenge is greatest for Chinese solar producers who have racked up huge losses in their attempt to dump their way to market dominance over the past two years."

Looking at global solar PV demand going forward, IMS foresees growth in solar PV installations accelerating in the second half of 2012 (2H 2012), despite slowdowns in Germany and Italy, two key European markets.

The outlook beyond year-end is uncertain, however, IMS says. "IMS Research remains optimistic about the potential for the US PV market, and we predict it will grow to at least 3.5 GW in 2012 and become the world's third largest PV market. The longer-term outlook for this market is less certain, although the speed at which it is developing so far in 2012 provides some encouragement," IMS’ Sharma elaborated.

IMS Research’s quarterly report series on solar PV provides regularly updated statistics and detailed forecasts for PV installations in 45 countries including 4-quarter and 5-year forecasts, according to the company.

Computer Cam App Shuts Off Screen to Save Energy

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 12:20 PM PDT

Even at the most conservative settings, computer screen shut-offs don’t usually go into effect for a few minutes. We all know how a few minutes adds up when there are millions of people stepping away from their computers everyday. To combat that waste of energy, Ecobeneficios has put out an app that turns off your screen the second you step away!

The GreenCam app uses your computer’s camera as a sensor to detect whether you are busily typing away at your desk or shooting the breeze at the water cooler. It’s a good thing the app doesn’t report its findings to your boss.

For a little more… in Portuguese, check out this video:

Source: Tree Hugger

Campers Showered with Solar Heat at Popular Park in Grand Marais

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 11:53 AM PDT

Solar-heated showers in Grand Marais, MNHappy campers abound now that a solar hot water system has been constructed on the roof of Recreation Park's new shower house in Grand Marais, MN!

Don Grant, a leader of the project explains: "The panels have eliminated complaints about losing hot water in the bathhouse. In the past, complaints were common during the 4th of July and the local Fisherman's Picnic (festival) weekends." Campers are also learning through educational displays that accompany the solar panels, as they reap the benefit of heated water while off the grid!

The Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) was looking for opportunities to implement solar hot water systems into local buildings in order to demonstrate their benefits to community members. Recreation Park in Grand Marais proved a viable location for such a project, and in 2010, CCLEP spearheaded the construction of a solar hot water system on the roof of their new shower house.

CCLEP submitted a grant proposal to the Northeast Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT). Both the NE CERT and the local community were enthusiastic about the prospect. Don Grant, owner of North Shore Sustainable Energy (NSSE) and a leader of the project described the significance: "The work of CCLEP in recent years has made the community aware of the need for more sustainable energy usage. We simply described the benefits of the system and support was received."

Gary Atwood of TEXTplorations provided the educational component to the project by designing two display cases describing the mechanical aspects of the solar hot water system and the environmental benefits of using solar energy, as well as space for periodic system updates.

The solar hot water system will save the city of Grand Marais between $800 and $1,000 a year in heating costs. Grant monitored the production of hot water between May 15, 2011 and August 1, 2011 and found that the campground saved 1,817 kilowatt hours of electricity—or enough to power the average American home for two months!

Click here to read a full CERTs case study on the project >>

Ely’s Adventure Inn a Lean, Green, Hospitality Machine

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 11:47 AM PDT

Adventure Inn in Ely, MNSusan and Mike Edgington, owners of the Adventure Inn in Ely, MN, now provide guests with energy efficient living, including solar-heated water and floors, and provide benefits to the surrounding environment in the form of increased green space to absorb runoff. The Edgingtons also "freecycled" old equipment including toilets, sinks, windows, doors, and furniture.

Benefits were plentiful for all involved when Susan and Mike Edgington, owners of the Adventure Inn in Ely, Minnesota, decided to make their business more energy efficient. A visit from CERTs director, Lissa Pawlisch, and Jill Curran from Energy Smart: "Planted the seed to find a green architect and to move forward with an energy saving design. So in a way, [they were] inspiration to go the extra mile," according to Susan.

Now visitors can enjoy ample hot water, heated by solar panels on the south-facing roof of the newly constructed, energy efficient building. The solar water heaters alone will reduce Adventure Inn's yearly carbon footprint by 51,000 pounds according to Conservation Technologies, the Duluth-based company that installed the system.

Susan and Mike have implemented several other energy-saving techniques to accompany this major project, however, including collecting rainwater, installing a hook-up for electric vehicles, constructing a more energy efficient building, and creating more green space to help absorb runoff.

The Edgingtons also made sure that most parts of the old building were reused in one way or another, according to Susan: "We advertized [to people] to come and take window, doors, usable toilets and furniture, sinks too. The Ely fire department will also use the building for a practice search and rescue by filling the rooms with smoke. When the building is gone, we will be paving over and making better parking for our guests."

Newly opened in June 2011, the Adventure Inn is already receiving praise from visitors. Susan noted that she was surprised by how many Ely residents have said they feel uplifted by what the Edgintons have accomplished. "Perhaps because we are looking forward and into the future," Susan mused, "many others will feel a bit more secure about the future as a whole."

Click here to read a full CERTs case study on the project >>

Farmers in Cahoots with Navy Biofuel Mission

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 11:39 AM PDT

When Republican leadership in Congress tried to torpedo the U.S. Navy’s ambitious biofuel programs last spring, the Navy managed to fight its way around those obstacles. The maneuvers received some media attention at the time, but one strategic ally seems to have slipped under the radar: the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA has been funding a network of eight biofuel refineries in every region of the country while supporting foundational research that will help make biofuels cost competitive with fossil fuels, which will benefit the Navy and farmers alike.

usda funds energy grass biorefineries

Biorefineries to Aid Farmers

When you think of biorefineries, the fuel is the first thing that naturally comes to mind, but a key mission of the USDA’s biorefinery program is to aid farmers and boost rural economies.

The Navy and Department of Energy first announced a major biofuel partnership with the USDA last summer, capping off President Obama’s midwest bus tour in support of the Administration’s rural economic development programs.

The USDA is funding the eight new biorefineries under The Biorefinery Assistance Program set forth in Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill. The goal of that program goes beyond the dollars and cents of competitive biofuels. According to the USDA, it is intended to:

“…increase the energy independence of the United States; promote resource conservation, public health, and the environment; diversify markets for agricultural and forestry products and agriculture waste material; create jobs and enhance the economic development of the rural economy.”


A New Biorefinery for North Carolina

The USDA’s latest biorefinery project is a $99 million, 80% loan guarantee to the global engineering company Chemtex, which also received funding to work directly with local farmers to raise “energy grasses” like switchgrass and miscanthus.

The new biorefinery will be the first commercial-scale facility of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic, and the USDA expects it to create 65 jobs on site with another 250 jobs off site, many involved in raising and transporting feedstock for the refinery.

In a sustainability twofer, some of the feedstock will also double as natural effluent management for waste lagoons at local pig farms, where a grass called Coastal Bermuda is already being used for that purpose. By transitioning to energy grasses, farmers will continue the land stewardship program while benefiting from a new revenue stream.

USDA estimates that local farmers stand to gain $4.5 million in new revenue annually when the new biorefinery is completed.

U.S. Navy: 3, Biofuel Opponents: 0

By putting itself front and center as an early adopter of biofuels, the Navy’s goal has been to help the biofuel industry build up to an economy of scale that makes its product competitive with petroleum fuels.

To that end, the Navy has budgeted for the purchase of biofuels even though they are currently more expensive. The program culminated in the launch of biofuel-assisted ships and aircraft in the new Green Strike Group this summer, and a full Great Green Fleet is planned for 2016.

When Republican leadership in Congress tried to prevent the Navy from building biofuel refineries or purchasing any new fuels that are currently more expensive than conventional fuels, the response was swift and sure.

By early July, the Obama Administration announced that the USDA, Navy, and Department of Energy will partner in a $62 million biofuel research initiative under the Defense Production Act, a 1950′s-era law that is routinely used to ensure a domestic supply of vital defense materials.

A few days later, the Administration also announced a $420 million biorefinery program, consisting of $210 million in matching federal funds for private companies to build three biorefineries.

The USDA’s eight-refinery network makes it three points for the Navy, and in an election year when farmers are under acute distress, it would be odd indeed if Republican leadership continued to make a public case against biofuels while undercutting a vital national defense program, too.

On the other hand, it’s been an odd year…

Image: Miscanthus. Some rights reserved by kanegen.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Marine Power Could Increase Twofold

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 11:30 AM PDT

A team of researchers has found that energy produced from the ocean could increase twofold if a new novel method of predicting the power of an incoming wave is used.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and Tel Aviv University in Israel presented their findings in the journal Renewable Energy, finding that they could extract more than double the energy currently generated after determining the oncoming power of the next wave.

There have been many barriers to a greater implementation of marine power as a renewable technology moving forward: experts have stated that the extraction of energy from waves is not up to the same level as that derived from solar or wind; marine energy is not commercially competitive without the inclusion of heavy subsidies; and devices are more often than not damaged by the waves they are trying to harness.

But this new study helps deal with these issues.

“Our research has the potential to make huge advances to the progress of marine renewable energy,” said first author Dr Guang Li of the University of Exeter. “There are significant benefits to wave energy but progressing this technology has proved challenging. This is a major step forward and could help pave the way for wave energy to play a significant role in providing our power.”

The researchers gave point absorbers — floating devices with parts that move in response to waves — the ability to determine the power of the next wave, and respond by extracting the maximum energy. The researchers believe that these point absorbers are more efficient in the quantity of energy they can produce if their response closely matches the force of the waves.

Developing a system that would give the device the ability to extract the maximum amount of energy from each and every wave, simply by predicting the power of the wave, allowed for greater efficiency, as well as minimizing the opportunities for the device to be damaged, as it would respond appropriately to damaging waves.

An unexpected upshot of this is that such devices would not need to be turned off during heavy weather.

“The next step is for us to see how effective this approach could be at a large scale, by testing it in farms of wave energy converters,” concluded co-author Dr Markus Mueller of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus.

Source: European Commission
Image Source: Tony Hisgett

Two UK Airports Go Carbon Netural

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 11:25 AM PDT

Two airports in the UK recently completed their first full year of carbon neutral operations, according to the latest Corporate Social Responsibility report published today by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns both airports.

The airports, in East Midlands and Bournemouth, have implemented a series of carbon reduction programmes since making the commitment to go “carbon neutral” six years ago.

“Today’s announcement is the strongest possible proof that as a Group, we have gone farther than any other airports in the UK and we’re looking forward to sharing our experience across the industry to reduce carbon emissions,” said Neil Robinson, corporate affairs director at MAG.

“As part of the UK’s largest airport operator, we are able to contribute to the targets set by Government and we will continue to work closely with our industry partners and airlines to make a further positive contribution.”

East Midlands added two onsite wind turbines that provide five percent of the site’s electricity, and they constructed the UK’s first hotel to achieve the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ green rating.

Over at Bournemouth, a designated “low carbon” arrivals building was built as part of a £45m new terminal development.

Last year the two airports lowered their carbon emissions by a whopping 7,171 tonnes, which means that they are now in their first full year of carbon neutral operations.

The report also outlined the fact that Manchester Airport, the other airport operated by MAG, continues to remain on course to achieve it’s own carbon neutral target by 2015, this after investing £2m over the last financial year on a range of initiatives that are expected to cut emissions by 12,500 tonnes per year.

Source: BusinessGreen
Image Source: H. Michael Miley

Why Does the Republican Party Ignore Science, and What Will Happen to Make Them Change Their Position? (Reader Post)

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 11:09 AM PDT

This is a guest post from one of our regular readers, Phoenix. In my opinion, it’s one of our best posts ever. Check it out:

us flag country

US flag on map via Shutterstock

Before I launch into this article, let me share a few things about myself that may help to explain all of this.  Ever since I can remember, my life has revolved around being a Republican. When I was in first grade, I remember seeing Reagan on the news and my family loved him. There have been times in my life when I would just simply look for the R and vote for that person.

But these days I have become disillusioned with the mainstream Republican party. Despite fact, science, and other countries pioneering ground-breaking accomplishments in renewable energies, the party fights its progress as if it were a plague. But why? If you think it is just because they are paid to do so by Dirty Energy, you would be at least partially correct. But there is so much more history and psychology there as well; and to leave that out would be to tell only a half-truth.

Years ago, it used to be the Republican party that encouraged business, while the Democratic party represented the needs of the less fortunate, people who needed someone to fight for them. And during Reagan's time, there was a critical mass of people within the United States that the Republican Party stood for. They were the middle class, the blue collar population. And during that time frame, there were lots of corporations that lobbied, but elections were somehow more connected to the people.

Also back then, there was a disconnect between Republicans and the fledgling green movement. Very little research was done to understand our impact on the planet, and those who fought pollution were hippies outside of the norm of establishment. For thousands of years, we were able to do anything we wanted and the natural cleansing properties of the planet would easily fix our transgressions. Doing anything to help the planet was viewed as simply unnecessary and a waste of precious business resources. The roots of conservation are deeply marred in the psyche of the Republican Party, much the same way that as a nation we have a deep-rooted belief of freedom of speech. The Republican Party viewed progress as a synonym to clearing the land and building industrial complexes powered by oil, coal, and nuclear energy. Those who controlled these forces controlled the powerbase. Anything outside of this collective was viewed with distrust.

To make matters worse, when Al Gore came out with his message to the world, "An Inconvenient Truth," it only widened the chasm between Republicans and anything outside of business. Some have argued that if a Republican had brought this message to the world, the Republicans would be more supportive. But this still doesn't explain why some of the really intelligent people I know still refuse to recognize the facts that are written on the wall for anyone to see. Which brings us to the next point about people and their deeply seeded need to associate with groups like themselves. Inside all of us is a need to hang out with others similar to ourselves. People who enjoy the food we like are the groups we associate with. We also have a desire to have everything within our social framework co-exist in similar ways.

Let me draw this last point in a different perspective. I grew up in a family that had a really poor example of a father. And when my sister was younger, she protected this dysfunctional person despite his best efforts to sabotage her development. She had to do a lot of growing up as a person before she realized that she could still love her father but simultaneously realize that he was a really poor role model. They say that is a sign of higher intelligence, when someone can hold two contradictory ideas in their mind and their intelligence can accept both. My sister now realizes that she can love her father but also knows that she can't depend on him, whereas when she was younger she thought she had to love him and protect him for fear that the truth would change that.

Many really intelligent people I know have this same problem with their politics. We know that Germany can run 50% of their country on solar, wind, and other renewables, and they are growing their job and industrial base because of this green revolution within their borders. We see their local tax revenues fueling their economy while the rest of the world struggles.  Articles are written about how profitable solar is for regular people, and yet all of this information is blasphemy to regular people in this country who simultaneously complain that we lack job growth and see a rising debt load.

I have found myself pondering this question: "How bad does it get before sheer embarrassment makes those in charge of the Republican Party change their position?"

Here are 10 possible catalysts of change:

  1. Other countries choose to take action against the US because of lack of attention, while simultaneously being one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.

Reality:  German politicians have already talked publicly about our issues on this side of the pond. They have openly discussed that one of the things holding us back are the likes of the Republicans and the Koch Brothers. It doesn't seem too farfetched that this kind of talk could spread and change to demands of action.

The rest of the world is catching up and passing us, we won't be able to wield our dominance over them forever. We are already being left behind in renewable energies — what would happen if China came out with a process to power cars with processed algae before the United States? Well, we could buy their technology from them instead of selling it and making a profit for ourselves. Imagine how the Chinese economy would grow if we sent them 700 billion US dollars every year for their oil instead of the Middle East. They would profit, we wouldn't.

What if the rest of the world decides that enough is enough and something must be done to reign in US emissions?

  1. The sheer success of other countries.

Reality:  Germany is leading the world in the development of renewable energy. They have entire cities that run completely on renewable energy and make a huge profit selling excess energy back to the grid. They have been working to successfully turn off all of their nuclear energy and replace it with solar and other greener alternatives. Other countries are taking notice, with Japan about to start a similar program of Feed-in Tariffs. If you look at Germany's economy, it is one of the strongest in the world right now. Their stock market is soaring, they are creating jobs, and regular people are getting richer because they sell freely acquired energy back to the grid. As this type of program gains momentum, it is only a matter of time before we feel left out and demand that our country catch up with the rest of the world.

  1. The sheer demise of our country.

Reality:  The only reason we didn't go into a deep depression 4 years ago is because we spent our way out of it. Had we embraced austerity, we too would have hit 25%+ unemployment. Combine that with all the outsourcing that has taken place to fuel China and India's success at our peril, and one has to wonder if we are even capable of getting back to even without something to drive it. The current theory is that we don't have to pay off our debt, just grow the rest of our economy while keeping the debt static and the percentage of the debt gets smaller and smaller relative to the growth of GDP, making it less and less important. But, what if we go backwards, or the debt gets blown out of proportion to our growth? What are we going to do, sell all the gold in Fort Knox to get back to even?

  1. Cataclysmic weather conditions.

Reality:  A winter or two ago, some Republicans jumped up on the table and in the dead of winter asked the world where Global Warming was? I guess it would be in poor taste for anyone to point out that severe drought is one of many symptoms of climate change. Maybe no one says anything because they are afraid that as soon as someone does it may reverse and they will look foolish. So how bad does it get before we are forced to address the elephant in the room? If we have to use a lot of our resources to combat drought, what will be left over for prosperity? If our farmers can’t grow food, then what?

  1. Greenland becomes green again.

Reality:  Story after story has been in the news about massive chunks of ice breaking off of the north and south poles. We see that massive amounts of ice are melting in Greenland as well. Some have speculated that climate change will escalate; and when it starts to rain on that ice sheet, one can conclude that it will escalate rapidly. Perhaps we should start a pool and ask how much the water level will rise before we start to evacuate cities, before we realize we can't ignore the issue?

  1. Regular people want to get rich just as much as rich people do.

Reality:  Venture Capitalists are putting billions more into renewable energy here in the US every year. And as I have pointed out to skeptics, they don't invest out of the goodness of their hearts. They invest for sheer profit. There is a school of thought that suggests Republicans are denying science just long enough to allow the rich to build all the new power plants, thus allowing them to keep selling energy to us and to continue to get rich like they always have. As many articles about Germany have pointed out, regular people in that country are getting richer by getting their own power sources and selling back to the grid. But in this country, we like to make the rich richer. Are you profiting from Republicans shielding the rich? If not, why not?

  1. Another Chernobyl, Fukushima, or Three Mile Island.

Reality:  Germany was a nuclear power until the Chernobyl radiation cloud floated over their country and they learned how powerless they were to do anything about it. They started to hate that power source way back then, and Fukushima only reinvigorated that taste. Japan embraced nuclear power as well, and all around the world it was viewed as a power source. But after the entire world has and is still being radiated yet again by another meltdown, Japan has drafted their version of the feed-in tariff that was so successful in Germany. And many places around the world have seen a huge backlash towards the most expensive and most dangerous power source the world has ever seen. If the US were to see another meltdown, one within our border, we would see a similarly powerful resentment towards the technology. Even without this happening, the sheer cost of nuclear is turning that industry into the Dodo bird. (Think: extinct.) And as some have pointed out, when a windmill or solar panel goes bad, it doesn't wipe out entire cities for decades (or radiate the entire world).

  1. Grid Parity.

Reality:  At the end of the day, profit and a desire to do as little as possible win out over the environment. But, money and profit will always rule the roost. So, as some have already written, when it is cheaper, pound for pound, to build a solar CSP plant compared with a natural gas or coal-fired plant, without taking into consideration negative externalities like health issues — when that happens — stockholders will favor renewable energy, not because it saves the planet, but because the cost difference helps them achieve that bonus. As that point becomes more real in the minds and hearts of board members, the right decision will be made every time.

  1. Social Ostracism.

Reality:  There was an article I read about a California politician that built many windmills decades ago and was referred to as Moonbeam because mainstream politics refused to fathom the potential. That tide is slowly changing. Ford Motor Company started turning off their computers every night and saves over 1 million a year in just idol waste. Imagine how much money would be saved in this country if every person in every corporation turned off their computer every night before leaving. One of the reasons why the suits don't act to save money is because they are afraid of what their peers will think if they suggest something so outside the norm in business.  And yet, the Empire State building is saving millions in energy efficiency renovations in one year alone. There are literally trillions of dollars of waste built into our economy that is up for grabs, but people are afraid of appearing liberal or hippy in the pursuit of these wasted dollars. But as more corporations realize real profits in cost savings, executives will get on board in bigger numbers. Because to do otherwise would be to leave money on the table. In one of my finance classes, we were told that, pound for pound, it is more profitable to cut costs then it is to increase sales, because every penny of cutting costs goes directly to the bottom line.

  1. Democrats Rise in Power.

Reality:  I am a registered Republican, though some will label me liberal because I am capable of loving my party but realizing they are becoming less relevant by ignoring science, attacking the middle class and taking bribes from the super rich. If Democrats started selling conservatism and generating jobs for the middle class, there really wouldn't be anything the Republicans could claim as their own any more. Imagine if Obama in his second term created even more jobs, eliminated affirmative action, and brought more manufacturing back to the States in the form of green energy production. What would the Republicans have? Almost nothing anymore, except those people who love them because they hate the idea of liking an idea from the left more than just being pragmatic and educated on science and the very real effects on an economy when new industries are embraced.

  1. Mass Extinctions / Cancer / Infections Run Wild</li>

Reality:  I really wanted to only give 10 of these, but as I was brainstorming and I couldn't ignore this one. How many animals will go extinct before we decide that the planet’s natural ability to bounce back has been overwhelmed by our billions and billions served? What if polar bears, whales, tigers, frogs, bees, salmon, apes, elephants, rhino, and several other species go extinct in our lifetime? What if cancer becomes the dominant sickness as more and more trees are cut down to grow coffee? What if the quality of our life is impacted because the ecosystems in the world get thrown out of balance? Now, to be honest, I have a hard time thinking that this would impact us negatively, but I suppose it could.


I am a pragmatic person, I don't like labels like Republican, or Democrat, and I hate being called a liberal by Republicans and a Republican by liberals.  I subscribe to the Pragmatic movement — whatever the best solution is, I am for. And right now I see that the world can be a much better place because of renewable industries. I am not a hippy, or a liberal — I want job creation, local tax revenues, better health, a stronger economy. I wish a Republican would have created "An Inconvenient Truth," because based on the ideals of the Republican Party that I grew up with, making a profit from developing industries is a Republican ideal, not a Democratic one. I am saddened that top Republicans ignore science and come off as just mean, and I wonder what will happen next — book burnings, witch hunts, or communist accusations? Support whichever political party you want to support, but realize you can speak out against bad policy and STILL support your party in every other way. Vote Republican if you want to, but don't support or continue to parrot back propaganda that isn't making you rich.

Balance of the Planet — Crowdfunding Opportunity!

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 09:44 AM PDT

Here’s a guest post regarding an interesting-looking game, Balance of the Planet, which needs a bit of a bump on Kickstarter. Check it out:

balance of the planet

Twenty-two years ago, I published a software game called “Balance of the Planet.” It was a serious simulation of environmental problems. Despite its esoteric nature, it sold reasonably well.

16 months ago, I decided to build a completely new edition of the game. The new version would be bigger, more detailed, and more accurate. It’s now about 75% done; incomplete, but operational. It still needs a lot more work, but it looks like it will come out well.

I had intended to sell it directly to consumers and schools, but then I got a wild idea: why not get funding and give it away? I could put a version up on the Internet and anybody could play it with their browser. Although this is a questionable idea in business terms, it fits my idealistic side so well that I committed to the idea.

Kickstarter is the venue for my effort; it’s a website that provides “crowd-funding” — people can contribute money to worthy projects. For the uninitiated, here’s how it works: I prepare a project proposal and post it on Kickstarter. People can look at the proposal and decide whether to contribute and how much money they want to pledge using their accounts at Amazon.com. The project has thirty days to reach its goal; if it does so, then the pledges are collected and the money is transferred to me. If it doesn’t reach its goal within thirty days, then no money is collected.

I launched the project on July 30th. I need $150,000 to make this work. Right now, it looks bad: the Kickstarter project closes in just two days and we’re nowhere near $150,000. Still, there’s enough time for a last-minute surge; besides, if it doesn’t make it, you can feel noble for contributing without having actually spent a penny! So far, the only people who’ve contributed are gamers; my efforts to drum up publicity from environmental groups (bar this one and two others) have not been successful.

If you’d like to look over the project, here’s the Balance of the Planet Kickstarter page.

That gives you all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Chris Crawford

Panasonic Bringing Appliance Control to Android Smart Phones

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 09:22 AM PDT

Panasonic announced last week the expansion of its line of smart home appliances in conjunction with the launch of a cloud-based service dedicated to Panasonic’s home appliances.

Panasonic Smart App will be available from late September on the Google Play store for Android smart-phones, and will allow users to remotely operate their appliances, program settings, and see the energy savings of each appliance.

In reality, Panasonic has already been providing cloud services to owners of the latest models of its 3-Star Bistro steam microwave oven and induction heating steam rice cooker, which were launched earlier this year, but the new smart appliances will include air conditioners, refrigerators, healthcare products and more.

The smart app will allow users the opportunity to control their air conditioners remotely, check if the refrigerator is running efficiently, and allow users to track device malfunctions.

Source: Panasonic

‘World’s First’ Community-Owned Tidal Turbine Set for Shetland

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 08:48 AM PDT

A community-owned tidal turbine which is claimed to be the first in the world is expected to be installed off the coast of the Shetland Islands early in 2013, according to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

SeaGen Tidal Turbine

Nova Innovations is the company that will supply this 30-kw hydroelectric generator. This is relatively small compared to other power plants, but this industry is still in its infancy. The tidal turbine will be connected to an electricity grid and is intended to power a local ice plant and industrial estate.

This project has been under development for three years and has received the assistance of the Community Energy Scotland and Shetland Islands Council.

Alex Salmond said:

“Scotland is leading the way in the development of marine renewables, and [the] announcement that the world’s first community-owned turbine is to be manufactured and deployed on these shores is a truly fantastic endorsement of our burgeoning renewables sector.”

Last year, the Crown Estate granted a lease to use the seabed between Yell and Unst, which paves the way for more of these generators to be installed in 2013 and 2014 to create the proposed half-megawatt (500-kW) Shetland tidal array.

Simon Forrest, the director of Nova Innovation, said that the plans would help to accelerate the growth of the business and “significantly advance” the marine energy industry in Scotland.

“We see significant potential for tidal arrays for other communities across Scotland,” he added.

Source: BusinessGreen
Photo Credit: Fundy on Wikipedia

India Gets New Gamesa Wind Order

Posted: 27 Aug 2012 08:40 AM PDT

Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa recently received an order from India's independent power producer ReNew Wind Energy P Ltd, a subsidiary of ReNew Power, for a total for 74 megawatts (MW).

According to the website, the order will include 50MW of the G97-2.0MW wind turbines, plus 24.65 of the G58-850 kilowatt (KW) turbines as part of the agreement with ReNew Power.

The project will be finished by the end of this year in Maharashtra, Gamesa said.

"The new 74.65 MW order from ReNew Power to Gamesa India comes as a real booster dose for the overall wind energy sector, reassuring and strengthening the wind energy market confidence. With the induction of ReNew Power into the large customer base of Gamesa in India, our company further strengthens the credibility that enjoys in the growing Indian wind industry," said Indian Gamasa Chairman and Managing Director Ramesh Kymal in a statement.

"With this order, Gamesa India's overall presence and visibility would increase in the entire State of Maharashtra especially in the most successful G97-2.0 MW platform."

Meanwhile, CEO of ReNew Power Sumant Sinha had this to say about the deal according to the Gamesa website:

"We are glad to partner with trusted manufacturer such as Gamesa and look forward to many years of good performance from new G97-2.0 MW machines. With this order we further establish the vision of rapidly expanding our footprint in the growing Indian wind energy market. This is another such partnership and an important step towards positioning ReNew as one of the leading Renewable IPP in India."

Source: Gamesa
Image Credit: Wind turbine in Karnataka state via Shutterstock

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